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A Starting Point

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Dear Ones,

The following is a precious gift I've just received via e-mail from Sandy Goodman, who is a dear friend, a gifted writer, and a bereaved mother. I am passing it on to you here, with Sandy's permission:

A Starting Point, by Sandy Goodman

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day for family, a day for gratitude. A starting point for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Stores will begin opening at sunrise, Santa clones will appear in toy departments across the country, and shoppers will hum along with the piped in chimes of Mannheim Steamroller. Kids will get too tired and too hot, parents will hurry to get the best deals, and sales clerks will wish them a loud Merry Christmas, as they compete with the "blue light special" announcement. Families everywhere will have a tree to cut, purchase, or drag out of the basement. They will have lights to untangle, gifts to wrap, and cards to address. They will attend parties, bake cookies, make candy, and lose their "to do" list at least once every day. They will be busy, preparing and planning, from the time they eat their Thanksgiving dessert to the time they put away their Christmas decorations. 'Tis the season . . .

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day for family, a day for gratitude. A starting point for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Like most of you, I will spend Friday morning making my "to do" list. When I have that done, I will find a quiet store, away from the crowds, and begin my search for the candles we will light for Jason. I will need one for our home, a long burning one which I can light whenever I need to for the next month. I will need one for Jason's Park, and one to sit by his rock at the cemetery. They will need to be wind and snow proof, and guaranteed to burn from Christmas Eve until Christmas morning. I will need three more to light at 7pm on December 12th, the Worldwide Candlelighting and National Children's Memorial Day. One will need to be tall enough to sit in my window and be seen from the street. I want to share this celebration with the world. And finally, I will need to buy a candle for our family as a whole, a candle of resilience and immortality, a candle for my mom, my dad, and my brother, Gary. Though no longer physically with us, their presence is strong and evident.

Once my candles are purchased, I will need to find Christmas cards that speak of love and peace, of memories, of beauty. Humorous or same-o, same-o cards no longer serve my needs. I will need to make small reminders to insert in the cards that invite our friends and family to light a candle for Jason and for their own loved ones who have died. I will sign each card with our standard "Dave, Sandy, and the Boys" because leaving Jason out of our annual greeting just isn't acceptable.

I will type and print the holiday issue of our Compassionate Friends newsletter, putting our traditional poem on the front, the one that has never yet failed to make me cry. I will shop for angels and butterflies for my Compassionate Friends, my shelter in the storm, my light in the darkness. I will prepare something delicious for our carry-in dinner and will take along pictures and mementos of Jason to share with those who understand far more than they ever wanted to before. At our regular December meeting, I will remember that there are those very new to this thing called grief, and I will meet their eyes and not look away when they share that which they cannot hold in any longer.

On December 12th, at about 6:30pm, I will bundle up and take my candles to the truck. I will sit our special candle in the window, and ask Dave to light it at 7pm. I will stop at Jason's Park first, placing one of the candles on the memorial wall beside my son's name. There will be other candles there also, burning brightly for the lives they represent. I will pause for just a moment to make sure the light will stay, before leaving for the cemetery and Jason's Rock.

I will turn into the drive, go through the gates, and silence the radio. I will talk to Jason, tell him I love him, and assure him that I know he is in our living room as much or more than he is in this graveyard. I will smile when I "imagine" him saying "Why would I want to hang out in a graveyard, Mom?" I will go around the curve and slowly make my way to the pine tree that sits close by Jason's Rock. I will take my candle, check my watch, and go to stand by my son's grave. I will brush the snow from the base of the stone, and place his candle so that it is out of the wind. As the seconds tick down, I will light the candle with reverence, knowing that Jason's dad is lighting one at home, at the exact same time. I will remember that thousands of parents are lighting a candle for their child, at the exact same time. I will realize that at this exact moment, the energy of love being sent to children on the other side must be incredible. After blowing a few bubbles, I will take a deep breath, wipe the tears from my eyes, and sing Silent Night to my son. I will know he hears me.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day for family, a day for gratitude. A starting point for the upcoming Christmas holiday. A starting point for remembering, for being grateful, for showing compassion. A time of year which used to have little meaning beyond the gifts I would give and little feeling beyond "too hot" and "too tired", has somehow turned into something much bigger. I can see the wonder in the little boy's eyes when he crawls up on Santa's lap. I can hear the reverence in the voices of the carolers as they sing Oh Holy Night. I can share in my friend's excitement because her daughter is coming home, and I can feel the magic of making snow angels at midnight on Christmas Eve. I can change my feelings of missing Jason, to feelings of loving Jason. I cannot miss what is not gone.

Yes, somehow, this time of year has turned into something much bigger. Somehow, something has changed. Somehow, love has taken precedence. Somehow, fear has disappeared. Somehow, a miracle has occurred. And somehow, somewhere between then and now, I expected it.

Merry Christmas to all of you. Expect Miracles . . .

Reprinted with permission of the author, Sandy Goodman. Sandy is the author of Love Never Dies: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Love, (Jodere, 2002). You can learn more about Sandy, her journey, and her book by visiting her website at Love Never Dies

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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